Commission denies permit for natural gas well

This photo from February of 2018 shows a gas and oil drilling site across the Payette River from Fruitland’s water treatment plant known as the Fallon site.

PAYETTE COUNTY

Snake River Oil and Gas were dealt a setback on Monday, as the Idaho Department of Lands denied the company a drilling permit for the proposed Barlow 2-14 gas well in Payette County. The drilling site proposed for the project was located 20 feet from the existing Barlow 1-14 natural gas well, near the Payette River.

In a letter to Weiser-Brown Operating Company president Chris Weiser, Mick Thomas, Division Administrator for Idaho Department of Lands - Mineral, Public Trust, Oil & Gas, explained the Commission’s reasoning for denying the permit.

“To ensure the correlative rights of mineral interests’ owners are maintained, Idaho Code requires that a unit shall not be smaller than the maximum area that can be drained,” wrote Thomas.

He referred to Idaho Code section 47-318(2)(b), which reads “The size of the spacing units shall not be smaller than the maximum area that can be efficiently and economically drained by one (1) well.”

Weiser-Brown is the parent company of Snake River Oil and Gas.

“Applications for permits to drill can be denied when the proposed well “will result in waste of oil or gas, a violation of correlative rights, or the pollution of fresh water supplies,’” added Thomas.

The director also cited that the drainage area for the proposed well was wider than allowed under Idaho Code, and that on the permit application did not specify any existing order for the spacing unit involved.

“The order in Docket No. 2016-OGR-01-001 does not authorize an additional well to be drilled within Section 14,” according to Thomas.

In an email Monday evening, Citizens Allied for Integrity and Accountability president Shelley Brock praised members of her organization for their efforts in stopping the permit being issued.

“All your letters and testimony were powerful evidence that helped to shine a light on what a bad idea drilling a second well in that location — so close to the river and to an existing well that has reportedly had a lot of problems — was, and on how hard the citizens were willing to work to discourage it,” wrote Brock.

Brock also expressed gratitude to attorney James Piotrowski for his work in providing evidence against the permit. She noted, however, that Snake River is unlikely to declare defeat.

“There will certainly be a plan B or C coming by operator Snake River Oil & Gas but we can all breathe a sigh of relief for the moment anyway,” added Brock.

Snake River has 14 days to appeal Thomas’ decision, or may submit a spacing request to establish a new or amended unit that meets Idaho Code.

In other news, Thomas has ordered a continuance and notice of continued hearing on Snake River’s proposed 300 acre spacing unit around the Fallon 1-10 well in Payette that was filed Feb. 24, 2020.

A hearing is scheduled on the continuance for the Fallon 1-10 well on Oct. 6. Documents pertaining to the hearing can be found on the Commission’s website at https://ogcc.idaho.gov/administrative-hearings/.

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